thoughts of a deviant
  entry created: Friday 27 May 2005, 4:18am (NZ time)
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Location:  Märjamaa, Estonia
Local time:  Thursday, 7:15pm

I've been seeing a lot of dogs around the neighbourhood lately, and this little fella just looked so cute staring out of the car that I had to take a photo. Like a little muppet.

Speaking of photos, I've had to send my new camera to the States. The Canon service center here said they could only honour the warranties of cameras purchased in Europe. Brilliant. I don't know how long I'm going to be without it, and I'm not too thrilled about it going through the Estonian and American postal systems.

I don't really have much to report this time around, hence my apparent slackness at updating this site more regularly. I'm hitting the local gym every day, and running when I'm motivated enough. The gym is not so busy here, and often I'm the sole person in it. There's no sound system, so my grunts and gasps tend to be amplified. Saw the latest 'Star Wars - Revenge of the Sith' the other day, and quite enjoyed that. It was clever how they tied it all in to the first original Star Wars, but a bit of a laugh to see Dr. Ropata from the NZ TV soap Shortland Street, as the clone Stormtrooper dudes throughout the movie. Also saw Kingdom of Heaven yesterday, but was pretty dissappointed with that.

The eastern-Europe trip is going ahead at the end of next month, and I'm looking forward to seeing my parents for the first time in over two years. Six countries, three weeks. I'll also be back in London for the second time, catching up with old school friends. I just hope my damn camera is ready by then.

My Estonian language skills have improved since last time (better than my Dutch now), to the point where I can make proper sentences. I have a hard time following a conversation though, only picking up a few words, as they tend to speak fast. But when watching TV with Estonian subtitles, I'm surprised at what I can follow.

The other night we went to a trendy new penthouse apartment in Tallinn, to watch the final of the Eurovision Song Contest, with a group of Krista's friends (mostly naturalised Americans, speaking surprisingly fluent Estonian). I'd never heard about this event until I came to Estonia last year (I was proudly informed that Estonia had won it a few years back), but it's now 50 years old, and even Abba won it in 1974 with 'Waterloo'. These days though, the songs are rather dull, fluff-pop top-40 wannabe bollocks. Estonia's entry was mundane but catchy, while Latvia's made me wanna hurl. At the end of the day, the songs merits appear to be irrelevant to the contest. Anybody from any European country can vote, via text message, and it seems that people vote for their favourite countries etc. It's not what you know, it's who you know, so-to-speak. For instance, all the Mediterranean countries gave the most points to Greece (the winner this time), and the Baltic and Scandinavian countries tended to vote for each other. Funnily enough, an Estonian pop band (Vanilla Ninja, who happen to be most popular in Germany) was representing Switzerland (with their cheesy-assed song 'Cool Vibes'). Thus Estonia gave the most points to Switzerland. Silly. Oh, and in 2003, Belgium came second-place with a song sung in an imaginary language. What the hell's going on here?

Here's another little fella living next door. He's a laugh to watch cavorting around the yard.

A view of Oleviste Kirik (St. Olav's Church), which in about 1500 became
the world's tallest building (159m, 525ft). The steeple has been hit by
lightning 8 times, and the church has burnt down three times (the fire
could be seen from Finland).

The 13th century church of Märjamaa.

One of the many abandoned buildings in Märjamaa. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, there was a bit of an
exodus to the cities, leaving this and other towns around the country looking, well, 'past their prime'. The
Soviets were very strict with land - if you were seen to have too much, you were considered to be against
the State. Yet you weren't allowed to sell it, because profiting from land is capitalism!

A rather unfortunate licence plate. I once saw an 'ass' plate on a
brand new Mercedes. I'd ask for a refund.

We visited the Tallinn Autoshow recently. Some nice cars, some silly ones.
This VW beetle lies somewhere in the middle.

This low-riding wagon from Sweden was a little intriguing, being only three feet tall!

"No swimming". "Danger!"
(If you dipped your toe into the water here, you'd understand why)

A photo of the back yard here, taken back in January, when the average temp. is -9 to -15ºC.
In July it's 16-20ºC (although it was 25 a few days ago). The coldest temp. recorded in Estonia
is -43ºC. (if you don't know Celsius, tough... go metric - it's the future!) Thank God I arrived
in Spring! (although it means that the fast-growing grass provides me with many hours of
lawn-mowing time each week!)

The mailboxes here don't sit at the end of your driveway, but rather, in a big group at the end
of the road. Sucks if you live down the far end!

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